Stephenson Tales

How I Did NOT Become an Officer

As a tech sergeant I worked in an office of the 849th Signal Intelligence Service, and after about a year of training cryptographic teams (one class entirely in French for young men to be dropped behind the Free French lines) who were assigned to our combat troops on sea and land, I was recommended for the highest non-commissioned officer rank of Master Sergeant, but a paper airplane intercepted that promotion.

I had a day off and went to the bathhouse at Hammam Melouane to soak in the hot mineral water (private bathrooms with huge tubs) for a few hours before going back to my cubicle to write my daily letter to Lucy Chase. On a table by the door was a stack of official announcements (in triplicate, of course) with all kinds of exciting things: the menu for the coming week; the schedule of the officer's baseball practice, warnings about "secret trash"; admonitions against "loose talk" when in Algiers, etc.

I took one of the sheets of paper and made a real neat paper airplane - not one of those simple ones made of four folds, but one in two parts with the forward corner of the wing tucked into the front of the body of the plane. I put on my uniform and stepped out into a balcony that ran around three sides of a large, open entryway on the floor below. I stepped up to the railing and launched my aircraft. I watched it make a graceful loop, and as it descended I saw, just as it hit the floor, the door to the officer's mess open and our commanding officer, Lt. Colonel Millard Rada, come forth. The airplane skidded across the floor and stopped at Col. Rada's feet. He looked up at me and said in a calm, but somehow ominous tone, "Stephenson, I want to see you in my office."

So I went in.

"Stephenson, I have on my desk a recommendation for you to be advanced to Master Sergeant. Well, you're not going to get it. You don't have enough maturity for a Master Sergeant."

"Yes, sir."


So when Captain Murray Gilden told me that he was putting me in for a field commission to Second Lieutenant, I replied to him, "Murray, please don't. My best friends are enlisted men and NCOs. If I were to be made an officer I could no longer associate with them, and there are too few of the officer's rank I WANT to associate with."

He looked meditative and said, "Yes, I know what you mean."

So I ended up with my rank of "tech sergeant" (three stripes on top and two on the bottom) - which I still had in October of 1945 at the time of my honorable discharge.

Composed 5 November 2008; Transcribed by Lucky

© Jim Bob Stephenson 2008

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